Christianity is one religion which has a lot of followers and this religion is adhered to the most around the globe. There are not many people who are unaware of the story of its founder and prophet, Jesus Christ. The second largest faith is Islam. There are many followers of Islam who are ignorant about the story of their founder and prophet – Muhammad. The September 11 attack should have created an anxiety amongst the followers of Islam, because it said that Islam preaches and fuels terrorism.
Since then Muhammad has been defined by his enemies as a lunatic and most flamboyantly, by the Reverend Jerry Vines, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, as a “demon-possessed paedophile. ” There have been many books that draw a picture of Muhammad as per the imagination of a suicide bomber, but these books do not shed light on Muhammad and his preaching about the religion of Islam. These books dwell more on the suicide bombers and reveal their truth and tendencies.
To get an idea about how a big majority of the world’s Muslim population understand their prophet and their faith, Karen Armstrong’s short biography is a good place to start. Armstrong is best known for his work “A History of God”. She is a scholar and a former nun with brilliance for presenting religions as a product of chronological forces like geography, culture and economics without diminishing the workings of inspirational spiritual forces. She writes about Muhammad pointing out his canny political approach, his idea of social reforms and how he played a key role as a social reformer and also as a mystic blessed by God on a mountaintop.
She talks about the teachings of Muhammad where he taught about being loyal to God is much superior than merely forming tribes. Muhammad also emphasised that reconciliation is better than retaliation. He preached that it is noble to care for the orphans and the poor, giving them equal status in the society, giving opportunities to the deprived and taking brotherhood as the sole aim of uniting with fellow Muslims. He also encouraged empowerment of women which stands a surprise for some readers. The Koran has given the right of property to women.
They can have the claim over their property without simply being placed as collateral to her husband or father. The orphans were freed from the obligation of marrying their guardians. This brought about a radical change at a time when women were being treated as animals. Karen agrees with the subtitle of the book “A Prophet for Our Time” and puts forward an argument saying that after the September 11 attacks, a new historical era has cropped up which requires a lot of thought and a thorough re-evaluation.
Karen’s faith, that the perception of this religion, the founder and the prophet has indeed changed, made her explore and revisit a subject which was already taken up. She believes that we have entered a new era and it is very essential to reframe the existing ideas and put forth a different perception of the existing one. Muhammad (570-632) was born in the city of Mecca which was an affluent city. Meccans were not nomads like the Arabs. There were traders and financers who gained money from the caravans that stopped in Mecca for water.
Mecca had an underground spring that provided water to the gypsies. This site was holy to the Bedouin because it had the Kabah, a cube-shaped granite building that was made and maintained by Muhammad’s tribe –the Quraysh. At the age of 25, Muhammad married Khadija. Khadija was a widow who had hired Muhammad to manage her caravans. At the age of 40, Muhammad declared that he had been confiscated by a strong force and was commanded to recite scripture. Khadija was the first one who got converted into the faith that Muhammad preached.
Initially Muhammad shared his revelations with a small group of friends and family members who later became his disciples, “convinced that he was the long awaited Arab prophet. ” Muhammad was illiterate. Whenever he recited new passages, the followers wrote them down and a compilation of all these writings later became the Koran. The Meccans were offended by Muhammad’s preaching, because they believe that the ultimate preaching of the religion was submission. (“Islam” means submission). Muhammad taught that the proper way to offer prayers was to bow, forehead to the earth.
This posture was said to be “a posture that would be repugnant to the haughty Quraysh,” writes Armstrong. Muhammad and his disciples were sent on an exile to Medina which was 250 miles north of Mecca. There were epic battles with the Quraysh and other tribes. Muhammad was a fighter and diplomat. Armstrong also states that “Muhammad was not a pacifist”. She says,”He believed that warfare was sometimes inevitable and even necessary. ” This is the reason why some of the passages in the Koran are rules for warfare. The terrorist group, who take up violence voluntarily claiming that it is mentioned in Koran, cite these selectively.
They contort and violate them as per their convenience. Armstrong does not pass a judgement on the events that have horrified other biographers, as when Muhammad marries the wife of his adopted son and makes her his fifth wife. Muhammad eventually regained his power and refuge in Mecca and reclaimed the Kabah. Armstrong puts forth that he triumphed by compassion, wisdom and ultimate submission to God. There is a lot of power in the story of this prophet and probably that is the reason why so many parents around the world name their children “Muhammad”.
Armstrong, Karen. Muhammad: A Prophet of our Time.